Relief from Neck Strain

Martial Arts And Your Back

by Sophie Hill

Martial arts practice can be hard on your back even if it doesn't get hit or kicked. While an impact related injury is the most obvious danger to your back, there are other activities that may cause back injuries or aggravate an existing problem. Potential causes of back issues include:


Martial arts styles such as Judo, Aikido, and  Jiu Jitsu emphasize throws and control of an opponent through joint manipulation. Although practitioners are taught how to fall properly from the start of training, the practice of these arts involves throwing an opponent off balance with speed and deception, so falls don't always occur with grace. 

Because most practice sessions occur on mats to lessen the impact of being thrown, the practitioner may twist their back as they fall. This can cause muscle strain and possibly cause their spine to be forced out of alignment.

Back muscle strains can usually be resolved with a few days rest, along with icing at first to lessen inflammation then heat to loosen the affected muscles. Ice and heat can be alternated, but should be limited to twenty minutes each. Don't use ice on bare skin because of the danger of frostbite.

Continuing pain may require the services of a chiropractor, such as Gillette Chiropractic Center, to realign the spinal column correctly. The chiropractor may request an imaging scan if disc damage is suspected.

Jumping kicks

While many martial arts that involve kicking have a limited selection of jumping kicks, some popular styles, such as Korean Tae Kwon Do and various Northern Chinese styles, feature an expanded repertoire of intricate jumping and spinning kicks. 

Proficiency in performing these kicks requires extensive practice and repetition. Some of these kicks require jumping and twisting the body in midair, and landing in awkward positions. In addition,  choreographed forms which consist of many different kicks done in rapid succession must be performed to move to the next level of training. 

This can cause stress to the spine and the practitioner completes each jump and lands, often on one foot or off balance, on the floor. Spinal misalignment or even stress fractures can occur from the repeated stress of the repeated   shock to the spine.

It is important that practitioners take back, neck, or leg pain seriously. If the spine becomes misaligned, the spinal discs can irritate the spinal cord nerves or the sciatic nerves that run from the lower back to the feet. While spinal alignment can be performed by a chiropractor, if the activity is resumed too quickly, recurrence is a strong possibility. 

Stress fractures can only heal with rest. The activity that caused the fracture can be resumed gradually as pain decreases. 

Serious martial arts practice requires awareness and mindfulness of risks to the back, as well as strengthening the lower abdominal core muscles that support the back.